Chef Hacks

Chef Hacks: How to Fish a Cork Out of a Wine Bottle — With a Napkin

Lo and behold, her cork.
Lo and behold, her cork. Photo: Stephanie Szerlip

Spend enough time in a professional kitchen and you pick up plenty of MacGyver-like skills and tricks that can come in handy in all sorts of situations — techniques you only learn when you’re on an undermanned, overworked line and every second counts. With that in mind, welcome to Chef Hacks, wherein each entry will be devoted to one such useful, unexpected technique that you can put to use immediately. Today: Chef Anita Lo of Annisa on how to use a napkin to get a wine cork out of a bottle.

Okay, first things first: Why would anyone even need to get a wine cork out of the bottom of an empty wine bottle? “It’s more of a parlor trick,” Lo admits. But even still, there are some rare scenarios — you break the cork, you don’t have a corkscrew (or a shoe) so you have to open the wine by forcing the cork into the bottle with a steel or a screwdriver — where you might need to get the cork out.

“When it was first shown to me,” Lo says of the trick, “I didn’t believe it was possible.” Nobody will, so you might want to keep this particular skill handy for bar bets (“I will retrieve the cork from the bottle using nothing more than this napkin”).

2. Twist it tightly and leave a cup-like opening at one end.

3. Push the open end of the napkin into the bottle. (Use a stick or needle to make it easier, if you want.)

4. Manuever the bottle so that the cork lands in the cup you’ve created with the napkin.

5. Use the napkin to bring the cork back to the neck of the bottle. Once it’s secure, pull, hard. (Lo had to enlist the help of her sous-chef here.)

6. Voilà!

Chef Hacks: How to Fish a Cork Out of a Wine Bottle — With a Napkin